The item below popped up on my MSN news feed this morning:
If you don’t feel like clicking on the link, here’s a slightly different version:
n 1962, Cincinnati, Ohio-based McDonald’s franchisee Lou Groen had a problem. His local clientele was close to 90% Roman Catholic, which was causing his restaurant to founder mightily on Fridays and during Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter during which Roman Catholics abstain from eating meat.
In those days, when your McDonald’s franchise was struggling, you didn’t noodle around with middle management. You got on the phone with Ray Kroc himself. Sympathetic to the struggles at Groen’s store, Kroc rather famously came up with a proposition. They would, as Groen had asked, begin testing a new fish sandwich to help the store get through those Friday rough patches. Kroc also insisted, however, that the restaurant also test his solution. Kroc thought the answer was to feed Catholics his “Hula Burger,” a slice of grilled pineapple with cheese on a cold bun, and demanded that both items be placed on the menu. Whichever sandwich sold best would be rolled out to the nationwide menu, and would become the first non-hamburger addition to the McDonald’s menu.
Lou Groen’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich won in a landslide, saved his struggling franchise, and McDonald’s went on to sell approximately 300 million of the sandwiches per year.
The prohibition of eating meat on Fridays actually dates back to the early days of the Catholic church. The complete story is VERY complicated, and can be found at the link below:
The short version, though is this:
The Second Vatican Council, which ran from October 11, 1962 to December 8, 1965, relaxed, but did not eliminate, the requirement to abstain from meat. However, the media and much of the laity interpreted these actions as abolishing the Church's requirement that the faithful abstain from meat on Fridays during the year and on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent.
The confusion surrounding the relaxing of the abstinence rule led the vast majority of Catholics in the U.S. and elsewhere to stop abstaining from meat on Fridays. In recent years the Church in the U.S. has managed to get many practicing Catholics to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent.
Lou Groen’s story illustrates why it is important to pay attention to LOCAL conditions. Although the area where his restaurant is located was 90% Catholic, Cincinnati itself is a lot less, at 21%. Due to the fact that they all have a heavily Irish population, Boston, New York City, and Pittsburgh are all tied (at 36%) of their population who are Catholic.
The complete list, of which cities are the most Catholic, is posted below:
All 4 of the major cities that I have lived in have populations that are more than 25% Catholic, which is why I went to a Catholic grade school and a Catholic high school. Evan if you aren’t Catholic, chances are pretty good that you would still enjoy a fish sandwich. Due to the fact that NUMEROUS outlets offer fish sandwiches, how do you know which one is best?
To find out, I reviewed 7 different websites to find out the winner.
The Catholic News agency liked the fish sandwich at Chick-Fil-A, which is available only during Lent -
Consumer Affairs liked the version by Wendy’s –
Business Insider also liked the version by Wendy’s –
The Focus Team picked Wendy’s -
Takeout liked McDonald’s –
Mealhack liked Arby’s -
Mlive liked Wendy’s -
You probably have your own preferences, but if I were looking for a good fish sandwich, I’d buy it at a Wendy’s. However, apart from the fact that Wendy’s was the winner in 4 out of 7 surveys, there is another reason that I would go to Wendy’s, and that is Dave Thomas himself. The longer version of this story is posted at the link below, but here are a few highlights:
Thomas was born on July 2, 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey to a young unmarried woman he never knew. He was adopted at six weeks by Rex and Auleva Thomas, and as an adult became a well-known advocate for adoption, founding the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. After his adoptive mother's death when he was 5, his father moved around the country seeking work.
At age 12, he got his first job at Regas Restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. At the age of 15, he was working at the Hobby Horse Restaurant in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Not long after he moved to Ft. Wayne, he dropped out of high school, and it took him until 1993 to obtain his GED, at the age of 61. He subsequently became an education advocate and founded the Dave Thomas Education Center in Coconut Creek, Florida, which offers GED classes to young adults.
In the 1950’s, the family that owned the Hobby Horse also opened a KFC restaurant. Not long after that, Thomas began to provide business advice to Col. Harlan Sanders, and eventually became a regional director for KFC. He later became part of an investment group that started Arthur Treacher’s, and less than a year later (On November 15, 1969), he opened the first Wendy’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1982, Thomas resigned from day-to-day operations at Wendy’s – and sales started to slip. In 1989, company management asked him to become a TV spokesman for the company. Although his initial ads were not successful, revised ads in the early 1990’s were EXTREMELY successful, and Thomas eventually made more than 800 commercials, more than any other company founder in television history. At the time of his death in 2002, there were more than 6000 Wendy’s operating in North America, and his net worth was $4.2 billion.
If you’re a big fan of fish sandwiches, give thanks to your Catholic friends, who created the demand, but don’t forget to thank Dave Thomas, who created the best sandwich.